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How The Instagram Privacy Hoax Conned Hollywood, The Power Elite, And Probably Your Mum

ELLE (UK) logo ELLE (UK) 21/08/2019 Team ELLE
Josh Brolin, Usher posing for the camera: An Instagram privacy hoax has gone viral after fooling celebrities, we spoke to a media lawyer who explains exactly why you shouldn’t have got suckered. © Getty Images An Instagram privacy hoax has gone viral after fooling celebrities, we spoke to a media lawyer who explains exactly why you shouldn’t have got suckered.

News that a purported change to Instagram’s privacy policy would permit the social media giant to appropriate every photo, message and mortifying Boomerang video you’ve ever created is a hoax, according to Instagram HQ who confirmed the scam to ELLE UK today.

The viral post, which states that from tomorrow, ‘everything you’ve ever posted becomes public’ has led to half of Hollywood (and a whole host of well-known journalists who you'd expect to know better) getting themselves in a digital lather. Julia Roberts, Josh Brolin and Usher, as well as broadcasters such as Amanda De Cadenet, all added to the fake news kamikaze by sharing the post, the original of which has since been removed.

The 159-word statement, which your mum has probably phoned you about by now, is alleged to have come from the ominously vague, ‘Channel 13 News’ and declares that from August 22nd the social media platform can use any of your own content ‘in litigation against you’. No, we’re not sure what that means either.

Don’t forget Deadline tomorrow !!! Everything you’ve ever posted becomes public from tomorrow. Even messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed. It costs nothing for a simple copy and paste, better safe than sorry. Channel 13 News talked about the change in Instagram’s privacy policy. I do not give Instagram or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future. With this statement, I give notice to Instagram it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. ... NOTE: Instagram is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tacitly allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates.

Activist and broadcaster Amanda De Cadenet, who has since deleted the post from her account, wrote to her 157,000 followers: 'Thanks to all the kind people who told me the "Instagram are stealing your Pics" info was a hoax. If you reposted me, I’m sorry and pls delete! Serves as a great reminder to always check the source if you can…’

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Amanda de Cadenet (@amandadecadenet) on Aug 20, 2019 at 5:56pm PDT

Dozens of her followers admitted to having already shared the ruse, with actress Kate Bosworth commenting: ‘LOL. I was thinking this the whole time’.

An almost identical hoax did the rounds on Facebook several years ago, leading to anyone who ever posted about what they did in Ibiza back in 2012 feeling just as queasy as they ironically did back then.

Related news: Instagram 'pressure' raises cost wedding by 50 % in five years (Evening Standard)

The hoax encourages users to copy and paste the false information, or indeed formulate a similar post to declare that they do not give Instagram permission to use any content they have created on the platform. Which, according to Francesca Shepherd from media law firm Sheridans, would in itself not suffice in protecting your data anyway.

‘It would be contrary to Instagram’s terms of service to require its users to post in order to agree a change – whether for a change of its privacy terms or for anything else,’ Shepherd told ELLE. 'Instagram may encourage its users to circulate posts to make users aware of changes but this would not be a required proactive step for users to take in order to protect their data.’

Related news: How to make your Facebook even more private (Yahoo! News)

In fact, under Instagram’s terms of service, they would need to give at least 30 days prior notice before they could raid your back catalogue of candlelit selfie attempts. But what about if you were notified but ignored the message? ‘If users then continue to use Instagram after this change, they will be bound by the updated terms,' Shepherd explained.

So, if you’re in any doubt, then it's best to check the platform’s terms of use. Or, says media lawyer Alex Wade from Reviewed and Cleared, make up your own mind about further chain-letter style posts by judging its sloppy grammar and spelling.

Related news: Residents of UK's prettiest streets are moving out because of selfie-loving Instagram users (Daily Mail)

‘Unfortunately the internet, and social media especially, is awash with this sort of thing,' he said. 'An official legal notice will never be badly written and full of exclamation marks; it's just not the way these things are done. The hysterical tone is a big giveaway too, and the attempt to sound "legalistic" is just that – an attempt. A serious communication with legal consequences will be serious and measured in tone…and it'll be well-written.’

a person walking down a street: Eva Chen © Christian Vierig - Getty Images Eva Chen

After all as Eva Chen, Head of Fashion at Instagram, told her 1.2 million followers today: ‘Fact: if anyone but @instagram posts it, it’s fake.’ She also reminded everyone that ‘Celebrities also post about laxative tea'. Good point.

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